, Volume 219, Issue 3-4, pp 160-167

Fasting induces cyanide-resistant respiration and oxidative stress in the amoeba Chaos carolinensis: implications for the cubic structural transition in mitochondrial membranes

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Large free-living amoeba (Chaos carolinensis) can survive in spring water without food intake for several weeks. Starvation is associated with a dramatic change in mitochondrial cristae from random tubular to ordered (paracrystalline) cubic morphology. Whole-cell polarography was used to monitor changes in respiratory activity during fasting. Basal respiration per cell decreased progressively during starvation, while the cyanide-resistant fraction increased. Spectrofluorometric assay of H2O2 and reactive oxygen species (ROS) in cell lysates (using the dye 2′,7′-dichlorofluorescein diacetate) indicates greater H2O2 and ROS generation in starved than in fed cells. Fluorescence microscopy of intact cells incubated with the same dye demonstrates that H2O2 and ROS tend to accumulate in vacuoles. A remarkable generation of O2 observed with starved cells after addition of KCN may be explained by release of H2O2 from these compartments into the cytosol, where it can react with catalase. Together, these observations suggest that fasting increases oxidative stress in the amoeba and that this organism has several protective mechanisms to deal with it, including activation of a plantlike alternative oxidase. The hypothesis is forwarded that the cubic structural transition of the mitochondrial inner membrane represents another protective mechanism, reducing oxidative damage by enhancing the efflux of H2O2 and ROS and by reducing the susceptibility of membrane lipids to the oxidants.

Received September 1, 2001 Accepted January 7, 2002